For a little over a month, the streets of Hong Kong have been a scene of unrest. A protest for democracy, otherwise known as the Umbrella Movement or Umbrella Revolution, led by students has brought the streets of Hong Kong to a halt. This is the largest protest to hit Hong Kong since 1997, blocking major intersections in the business district, causing school, business, street and subway closings while sending a strong and definite message of civil disobedience to the Chinese government and the world. Protesters range from high school students to senior citizens. According to Reuters, the number of protesters exceeded 100,000 at its peak.
Josua Wong, 17 year old leader and founder of high school activist group Scholarism joined forces with Alex Chow and Lester Shum of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, China’s largest union for college students comprised of students from eight Chinese colleges and universities, to form a peaceful army of pro-democracy protesters. All three, have been activist for quite some time but the government’s recent decision to deny Hong Kong voters equal voting rights has heated things up.
Boycott organizers are angered at China’s decision to bar open nominations for Hong Kong’s chief executive, its top official. The election is set for 2017. The National People’s Congress announced the restrictions last month. The restrictions mean Hong Kong voters will be not able to directly nominate candidates for the office. Voters will be able to choose from a list of candidates approves by a proactive China nominating committee. Hong Kong democracy activists disapprove of this system. Currently, an election committee chooses Hong Kong’s top official.
The political dispute has caused some people living in Hong Kong to consider leaving. The Chinese University of Hong Kong recently carried out a public opinion study. The study showed that more than 20 percent of the people questioned were thinking about leaving Hong Kong because of its political failure. The last time large number of people left was before the territory changed from British to Chinese in 1997.
On October 28, thousands of pro-democracy supporters gathered in front the city’s government headquarters to commemorate the one month anniversary of the protest and the 87 rounds of tear gas fired by police that helped jumpstart the Umbrella Movement.
Organizers striving to inject new momentum into the movement told crowds to gather at the main protest camp opposite the city’s government headquarters for commemorations starting with an 87-second silence at 5:57 pm (0957 GMT).
At that time on September 28, riot police shot 87 volleys of tear gas at crowds of largely peaceful protesters who had taken over a highway near the city parliament.
That decision backfired, drawing tens of thousands of sympathizers onto the streets and kick starting a movement that has become the most concerted challenge to Beijing since the bloody 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Dissatisfied with the lack of progress in negotiations with the government, the student leaders are considering taking their fight to Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum Summit Meeting that will be attended by various world leaders including President Obama on November 12th.